Standing Rock: Obama, Army To Block Dakota Access Pipeline Construction

In a major development at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation today, the United States Army Corps of Engineers has stated that they will not permit the Dakota Access Pipeline to continue to be built along its present course. For months, Native American and other protesters at the site in North Dakota who refer to themselves as Water Protectors have been camped around Standing Rock, attempting to prevent further construction. The Water Protectors have claimed that the pipeline will be dangerous to the water supply in the area and that the construction of the pipeline will destroy sites sacred to the Native American community.

According to The Huffington Post, the United States Department of the Army announced Sunday that it has denied the final legal easement for construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline under Lake Oahe in North Dakota. Instead, the Army will conduct an Environmental Impact Statement and explore routes that do not pass through Standing Rock. Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, discussed the decision in a statement.

A veteran protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Darcy said. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternative routes for the pipeline crossing.”

The news has pleased the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their supporters, who have for months been camped at Standing Rock attempting to block the pipeline. Recently, Water Protectors at the site have squared off with police and private security forces, who have used water cannons, rubber bullets, and even concussion grenades in the process of limiting the protests. In recent days, and possibly influencing the move by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Obama administration, thousands of United States military veterans have joined the protests at Standing Rock to act as “human shields” for the Water Protectors. Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II issued a statement on behalf of the tribe about the decision.

“We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing,” he said.

Not everyone is pleased by the news, however, and the future of the project is still up in the air. President-elect Donald Trump has previously stated that he supports the Dakota Access Pipeline project. BBC News reports that Mr. Trump owns stock in both the pipeline’s builder, Energy Transfer Partners, and a company that owns a quarter of the project, Phillips 66. Mr. Trump denies that his position is related to his financial interest in the project. North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple called the decision a “serious mistake.”

A group of protesters, called Water Protectors, stand in a prayer circle at Standing Rock.

The proposed Dakota Access Pipeline would run through Standing Rock and four states on its way from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota to Illinois, a course of 1,172 miles. The Standing Rock Sioux and Water Protectors content that the pipeline has not had a full environmental impact study, and that it poses a danger to both water supplies and sacred sites. Native American groups have also claimed that the construction through Standing Rock breaches treaties between the United States government and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Though this recent development from Standing Rock is heartening for the Water Protectors, the future of the Dakota Access Pipeline is still uncertain. Incoming president Donald Trump could reverse the decision or the studies conducted during this process, and the ensuing legal actions may still permit the pipeline to be constructed along the present course.

[Featured Image by Matt Rourke/AP Images]